Poem: small town outside of

by austin beaton

I want to write you a letter. Email me three words at austinrbeaton@gmail.com and I will.

This was first published by Punch Drunk Press in January, 2018. It’s the title poem of small town outside of, a chapbook available to purchase in July.

small town outside of (sibling)

How bay leaf bends itself

under boiled water; Mom stirs

in October. This here always

where she’s born, fathoms

the taste of quiet waking

again, unhinging rusting

sacrum out bed. If not nine

in this memory I’ll have left

for good, after adolescence

ferried me what I needed

she didn’t know she didn’t

know to give. I color, tell fib

when Lewis & Clark slept

Sacajawea slipped out tent,

tiptoed to stare the Pacific

away from dreaming men.

Is it gonna thunder? I ask.

No, buddy, she says. How

do you know? How do you

know if purple is peace or

purple a thunderhead, since

chain link zodiac arrives from

the past can adults stargaze

beyond what’s then? He guts

in the garage what he caught:

smell of fish & him. Unfolded

carcass like a suitcase, he points

to the innards, names them like

statistics (belly of salmon eggs

take fluorescent like seeds of

a pomegranate, the last beer can

drank (saved / hid in the closet)).

Some year I say, you scare me.

My mouth hatchets inside my

father: inside him: some human.

I don’t want you to be afraid

he cries, scrunching to a face

not his. He leaves to do what

fathers do. Where do they go?

Does it feel like cheating?

Will they hear our youth march

till we unlearn our youth? Mom

in the kitchen bent like a question

mark, scrubbing a clean sink.